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Tšepong turns away patients without referral letters

Limpho Sello

QUEEN ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital, the country’s major referral hospital, is turning away patients who show up at the hospital without referral letters from district hospitals and other health centres.

Public Relations Officer Mothepane Thahane on Tuesday said the move was part of efforts to return the hospital to its core business of being a tertiary facility which only takes in patients who have been referred to it by primary and secondary health institutions.

Ms Thahane said the move was also borne out of the need to ease congestion and relieve the burden on the hospital’s facilities which had been stretched by admitting even first-time patients.

Widely known as Tšepong, Queen ‘Mamohato, opened its doors in 2011 replacing Queen Elizabeth II Hospital as the country’s major referral health facility.

It refers cancer patients to Pelonomi, Univesitus and National hospitals in South Africa, with government footing the bill. The hospital is owned by the government but is run by the Tšepong consortium of five companies, namely Netcare Healthcare Group and Afri’nnai of South Africa, as well as Excel Health, Women Investment and D10 Investments from Lesotho.

Although it is a referral hospital, for a long time Tšepong has been accepting ordinary patients from Maseru and surrounding areas because Maseru does not have a district hospital of its own. Each of these patients only paid M15 each for consultation with the rest being paid by the government which subsidised them.

Last September however, the hospital announced that it would only admit patients with life threatening conditions and attend to emergencies until further notice.

This was in response to a government announcement that it would no longer pay the hospital for inpatients beyond the contractual number of 20 000 inpatients per year. Tšepong is mandated by the government to provide health services to a maximum of 310 000 outpatients and 20 000 inpatients annually.

The contractual quota of 20 000 inpatients was first reached in September 2018 and the government subsequently stated that it would not pay for extra admissions the hospital made to its private wards and other departments. At various times in 2019, Tšepong would turn away patients.

On Tuesday, Ms Thahane said the hospital had to be very strict and insist on referral letters before attending to patients. This, she said, would ensure the hospital returned to its core business as a tertiary health facility.

On her part, the Deputy Minister of Health, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, said Tšepong was now doing what it should have done a long time ago — that is operating as a tertiary hospital which only take in patients who have been referred to it.

She also said patients could also visit the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital which was still operational although it was in the process of relocating to the BEDCO Building in Maseru. Queen Elizabeth II’s current site will be demolished to make way for the construction of the Chinese-funded Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic.

“So, this means even if Tšepong tightens its admission procedure there will not be a big gap as we have arranged that when Queen Elizabeth II Hospital moves, they should not stop offering services altogether,” Ms Phohleli said.

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